Odds and ends

I’m off on another, albeit much more reasonable, trip this weekend just for the miles, heading out to Sacramento for about an hour tonight and turning around to head straight back home. This trip will be enough to qualify me for elite status for next year, so that’s nice, but it doesn’t really have the same excitement as last week’s 72 hour, 9,600 mile ordeal, so not much useful in writing about on that front. But there were some interesting happenings on the ground through the week that I thought I’d mention here.

First, on the refreshment front, announcements from Delta and US Air. Delta has decided to eliminate ginger ale, tomato juice and apple juice from their in flight beverage offerings. Apparently there are cost savings to be had in making such a change, though they must be on the logistics side of things as odds are they will be stocking just as many cans of soda on flights going forward so the total weight is the same. Perhaps this is a move to consolidate all beverages to being supplied by Coca Cola (Seagram’s Ginger Ale is a Pepsi product) but I really have no idea. US Air, continuing their efforts to charge for just about everything they can, has decided that bottled water in their lounges will now cost money as well. There is still free water available, so it isn’t completely the end of the world, but it is an interesting move nonetheless.

Next up, some bad news out of Washington, DC. Passengers yet again find themselves getting screwed by the federal government thanks to an impressive lobbying effort by the airline industry. There was some movement towards defining a set of standards under which passengers would receive benefits due to flight delays and other irregularities in their trips. This effort was stymied by a most ridiculous problem – the inability of those negotiating to agree on what a “long” delay meant. I certainly have my ideas on what the threshold could be set at but that’s not actually the point of such a rule. Pick a number. Any number. And give the passengers SOMETHING. Go back later and adjust the number if necessary. And in case anyone is curious what my number would be, I’d take the massive dataset that the Bureau of Transportation Statistics has, find the average performance of all domestic flights over the past 12 months and then got out 1, 2 and 3 standard deviations on the delayed end of things to set the thresholds for levels of accommodation. At least I’d start there and see what the numbers were. It can’t be too much worse a plan than what anyone else has, and that’s about all I remember how to calculate from a stats class 12 years ago.

Some good news for passengers, too, with the announcement that US-bound passengers will now clear all immigration and customs checks in either Dublin or Shannon prior to departing for the USA. Such pre-clearance is already the norm for many airports in Canada as well as the Bahamas and Aruba. For at least the past 8 years passengers traveling from Ireland the the USA were able to clear immigration in Ireland but still had to pass through Customs inspection in the USA. For the vast majority of passengers this consists of walking past the Customs officials and saying hi, resulting in the passengers being left outside the terminal at their arrival airport. For passengers connecting onwards this meant re-checking any bags that were checked and, more annoyingly, re-clearing security with the TSA. Now passengers will arrive into a gate just like any other flight and if they are connecting onward to another flight they’ll be able to just head to the next gate. Actually, the pre-clearance was incredibly helpful in the case of a lost passport as it allowed us to get past the airline agents and know before setting out on a flight back to New York if we’d both actually be admitted upon arrival (and we were).

Finally, it is really, really cold in seat 14F on Continental’s 737-300. Sure, I’ve got virtually unlimited legroom thanks to no seat in front of me, but my toes are going numb thanks to the cold of the window exit plug I’m sitting next to. I’m putting on extra socks in hopes of warming them up. And this is the first flight in a long time that I haven’t been annoyed by the heat that my laptop gives off.

So there you have it….some odds and ends, some good and some bad.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.